In my last post, I laid out what I plan to do for the next 30 days. Before we begin, I think it bears a few words about how I decided on the gun I’ll carry, as well as my criteria, as this may have some bearing on your own decisions, if you’re evaluating the same question.
Let’s set the WABAC Machine to 2007, when I first began thinking about “Condition Yellow” and pro-actively protecting my family. As is my habit (and a family tradition), I started by doing a lot of reading. That turned out to be both a good and a bad thing. You see, guns are one of those things that evoke passion on the part of their owners. Much like the kind of “spirited” emotions you’ll see exhibited between aficionados of Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge pickups, the “best gun” is a loaded question. Pardon the pun. (Hey…at least gun fanboys don’t drive around with vinyl cutouts of Calvin peeing on some gun manufacturers logos. Yet.)
So my thought process back then went like this: I’m a big guy – 6’4″, around 240 lbs. (on a good day). I can handle a big gun, both from a shooting and a carry perspective. So I don’t need to worry about some little mouse gun. I want some stopping power, baby! But I’m also not into ostentation or bling, so I had no interest in something like a .50 cal Desert Eagle. I’m big on tradition in just about everything (I play a drumset that has achieved vintage status not through buying old drums, but by buying new drums and holding onto them for 30 years.) If you keep something long enough, it’s almost bound to come back into style.
One of the things that instantly appealed to me was the 1911. Hailed by many as the ne plus ultra of handguns, it boasts a combination of classic looks, stopping power, and a rich history (Browning, WWII service, et all). But a lot of people I talked to also gave props to the Glock and other polymer pistols. I quickly discovered that reading alone would not be enough. Off to the range!
I hope your first experience at a gun range is more positive than mine. Dirty. Cluttered. Dank. Dimly-lit. And that was the showroom of the store I had to go through to get TO the range. Did I mention the lack of adequate ventilation? But they did have a couple of advantages: they were the only commercial gun range in town, and they had pistols to rent. The proprietors (wisely) directed me to a ubiquitous .22LR pistol, and gave me about an hour’s worth of instruction on the safe handling, loading, reloading, stance and aiming of the pistol. After three trips to the range for practice, I was ready for something a little more robust.
The gun guys at the range recommended I move to a 9mm. Nope. I was ready for the big time – the classic .45 caliber ACP. (You might ask at this point, why I didn’t consider a wheelgun. Simply put, in Texas, if you qualify for your CHL with a semi-automatic pistol, you’re licensed to carry either revolver or pistol. If you qualify with a revolver, that’s all you can carry.)
The range handed me a Kimber with a steel frame and 5 in. barrel. I don’t remember which model, but it had an adjustable rear sight, so we’ll assume it was a model designed for competitive shooting. Nice pistol. Woulda been nicer if they’d run a bore snake through it occasionally. Apparently, the owner felt that his guns and his store deserved the same amount of attention to cleanliness.
At any rate, I made the transition to .45 ACP without so much as a hitch. The next visit, I shot a Glock. I found that the 1911 felt better in my hand than did the Glock. Now I’m not gonna get into single- versus double-stack, polymer versus steel, or the whole Glock cant thing. Not important, and these issues are a VERY personal choice. Think of it as choosing something you’re gonna wear all the time, like a watch or a wallet. I gravitated towards the mystique of the 1911 like moth to flame. Of course, turns out I have expensive tastes in guns, just like I do in most things. Average price of a polymer pistol? $500. Average price of a decent 1911? Double that. Sheesh…
Of course being all gung-ho about getting my CHL, I wanted to have my own gun for my range test. I looked at virtually all the 1911s out there. Kimbers were impressive, but a little more expensive than I could afford. Taurus 1911s looked like a good value, but I had too many people tell me to stay away from them. Colts were out of the question – no supply locally, and I wanted a new gun. That left me with Springfield. I did some research, and liked what I learned. But of course, being a headstrong, “I can handle anything” kinda newbie, I chose the Springfield Loaded, a full-sized, steel frame behemoth, nicely turned-out with a beavertail grip and all the other little fine-tuning extras you’d expect to find on a gun that put modern innovations alongside traditional design.
Did I mention that the Springfield loaded clocks in (sans magazine) at 44 ounces? Did I mention that I have no concept of how much 44 ounces really is? Perhaps I let slip that I never bothered to strap on on my hip and walk around for a bit, with it fully-loaded, to see if I could handle it as an every-day-carry piece? Nope? Well lemme tell ya…
The Springfield is heavy. Lead ingot heavy. Now that works in your favor, accuracy-wise. It’s much easier to keep a heavy gun on target, and the reduced recoil makes it that much easier to bring it back to bear after you fire it. But carrying it? Lord have mercy, the combination of a 5″ barrel and weight made this a non-starter. Not that I didn’t try. A lot. But it wasn’t seven days into my valiant effort at saving face that I realized the gun was just Too Damn Heavy to Carry Every Day. Period. Which threw a big, honkin’ monkey-wrench in my plans to be able to defend my family wherever we went.
At this point, I’d love to tell you that I started with a blank sheet of paper, and asked “what’s the best carry gun, without restricting my choices to a 1911?” But I didn’t. No, I started looking at the 4″ Commander-style 1911s as well as the shorter 3″ styles. I expanded my quest to some of the double-stack 1911s, too. Then I had a revelation. Why not just look at other guns. I mean, it’s not like I was cheating on my 1911 to look at other weapons, right?
So I availed myself of the opportunity to look around at the NRA Show. What was interesting, however was that I kept gravitating back to the 1911s. Frankly, it had more to do with how they feel in my hand than anything. Having some experience with an inside-the-waistband holster, I hypothesized that a 4″ barrel offers the best compromise between the smaller dimensions of a pocket pistol, while retaining most of the accuracy and stopping power of the full-sized models. That brought me back to where I’d started in 1911-Land – Kimber.
I began looking at the Kimbers factory-equipped with my dream-gadget – a pair of laser grips. The Crimson Carry series looked nice. Really nice. Felt good. And for a 1911, not bad on the price frontier. Sadly, the words “discretionary income” had long since vacated my vocabulary, if you know what I mean. So I waited. And watched. And dreamed. And even schemed a little.
Which brings me back to today. The folks at Kimber graciously agreed to send me my dream gun (warning me that drooling directly ON a handgun is ill-advised). So this afternoon, I’ll be trekking off to my local range to do a full review (see tomorrow’s TTAG) on my dream gun, as well as a comparison between it and what has become my “reference” handgun, the Springfield Loaded 1911. And of course, I’ll report semi-regularly on my experiences carrying the Kimber with me on a daily basis. Stay tuned…